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Jerm and Evan shouted "Just ski it!" as I built up the courage to take
the plunge over the lip.  Just a bit below and to the right, they
stood a top a twenty foot overhanging cornice, but the two assured me
that no monstrous cornice lurked below me.  I didn't know if I should
believe them.  "Just ski it!" they cried again.

One tentative turn brought me to the edge of the precipice and I could
see that it merely plunged over in excess of 45 degrees for short bit
before mellowing.  A more confident turn followed as I arced down the
steepest part, weighted down by a 40+ pound backpack.  The slope below
me buckled and folded.  AVALANCHE!

* * *

The three of us lay huddled low in our megamid at 7,500 feet perched
atop the Trorery Glacier.  FLASH!  One Mississippi, two Mississippi,
three Mississippi... BOOM!  BOOM!  Graupel pounded our shelter as the
lightning struck around us.  We waited tensely, cold, exhausted, and
at the mercy of Zeus himself.

* * *

First Jerm, then Evan, then Ari, finally me.  A rope strung between
us, we tentatively traversed the Easton Glacier, the sky and slope
merging together in a cloud of vast whiteness.  We knew that gaping
crevasses lurked around us, but we couldn't see anything.  If it came
to it, hopefully, it would be Jerm that would fall. The rest of us
would drop to the ground, plunging our self-arrest grips into the
snow.  We would stop his fall quickly, set anchors and Jerm would
either prussik up on his own--again, hopefully--or, if he were
debilitated, Ari would set a Z-pulley so that he and I could haul him
out.

* * *

The first two of these to scenes occurred on Monday, 21 May, our first
of three days on British Columbia's famed Spearhead Traverse.  The
third came five days later on the slopes of Washington's Mt. Baker.

The scenery on the Spearhead is mindblowing.  "The Haute Route of the
Americas" it is often called.  It starts from the top of Blackcomb and
wraps around the Fitzsimmons Creek drainage and ends up in Whistler.
For over twenty kilometers the route ascends one glacier and descends
another, usually not dropping below 7,000 feet.  Our variation of the
classic route took us 3,000 feet down the steep Curtain Glacier on the
second day, the upper half of which treated us to powder turns between
icefalls.  It also meant that we were faced with a draining climb of
2,000 feet at 6 PM.  Ugh!  Fortunately, the climb ended at the cozy
Himmelsbach Hut.

After leaving the Blackcomb boundary, we did not see a single other
soul or ski track until we returned to the base of Whistler two days
later.  We had gone into the traverse thinking it would be a warm-up,
gentle tour.  It wasn't.  It was grueling and we were in isolated
wilderness.  There was no easy escape route.  At times the vastness,
the isolation, the beauty, and the seriousness of it was almost
overwhelming.  It was another world.  It was heaven.

Gluttons for punishment, we met up with Jerm's friend Ari and spent
Thursday, the 24th, skiing high alpine bowls and lacing our way
through cliffbands amidst the dramatic scenery off of Rainey Pass in
the North Cascades.  A couple of wet slides added some spice to an
already hot dish.  Evan nailed a non-stop line through trees and
cliffs, despite the funky snow.

After a tour of the tihshole known as Concrete, WA, after we nearly
hit an elk, after Jerm drove his truck off the road, after searching
futiley for a soak in a natural hot spring, after downed trees aborted
a planned ski of the famed Mt. Shucksan, we ended up spending Friday
and Saturday on Mt. Baker, the northern most of the Cascade volcanoes.
 Saturday was summit day and we made it to about 9,600 feet--about
1,100 feet short of the summit--before the whiteout conditions forced
us to turn around.  Sure, we had a 6,000 foot descent to look forward
to, but 4,500 feet of it was in the disorienting whiteout down a
glacier and carried us between gaping crevasses and towering seracs.
Yeah, snowmobiles may legally summit the volcano, but this wasn't
child's play.

It wasn't the most glamorous way to end the ski season, but it was an
adventure until the end.  Every day we suffered physically and had at
least a few thrilling mini-adventures, whether it was slab avalanches,
lightning storms, skiing crevassed slopes, or routefinding through
cliffbands.  Evan and I are indebted to Jerm's research and his
hospitality and to his and Ari's knowledge of safe glacier travel and
ropework.

Evan, and perhaps Jerm, will surely followup with other thoughts and
defintely photos.

--Matt K.

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